“The Women’s March Proves that the 21st Century Protest is Still About Bodies, not Tweets,” a headline on The Verge magazine’s website on the morning of Monday, Jan. 23, read. The Millennial generation is largely criticized by its elder generations for its inability to mobilize on political issues, choosing instead to utilize the Internet as a means to spread messages of social activism.
An estimated 500,000 people attended the Women’s March in New York City on Saturday, Jan. 22, suggesting that passive Millennial activism is nothing but a myth.
The New York City march itself began at 10:45 a.m. with speakers and a rally at Dag Hammarskjold, continuing down Second Avenue to 43rd Avenue, turning onto Fifth Avenue and ending finally at Trump Tower.
Many participants sported pink “pussyhats.” Police were agreeable and kind from what was witnessed, while strangers joked with one another and marchers with creative posters posed for photos.
The New York City march was a “Sister” March, which popped up in cities across the country and world, to the original Women’s March on Washington. The idea for a march after Trump’s inauguration originated after the election in response to the Trump’s rhetoric on minority groups, specifically women and immigrants.
This is exemplified most notably by the “Grab them by the pussy” fiasco that surfaced in early October 2016 when a recording of then Republican nominee Donald Trump was released by the Washington Post.
All marches’ missions were to demand equality of all marginalized groups – not limited to women – in the face of a leader whose rhetoric has, in their opinion, threatened the rights and safety of such people.
Posters at the march echoed these sentiments, reading “X [Women’s, Muslims’, Immigrants’, LGBTs’] rights are human rights,” “My body, my choice,” “Love trumps hate” and “I’m with her,” a play on Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan, displaying arrows in all directions signifying fellow marchers.
Although the march was advertised as a women’s march, many men attended, chanting “Her body, her choice” in solidarity. The march in New York also attracted participants from ranges of ages. Babies and toddlers marched alongside older women in the family-friendly affair. Many children rode atop their family members’ shoulders, holding signs of their own making, one such reading: “Trump is meen. Trump should not be president.”
Fellow marchers noted and appreciated the representation from a range of ages. One marcher, Tai Ospina, Union College class of 2016, admired the dedication of the older marchers to a lifelong fight for human and women’s rights, after learning about some marchers who participated in anti-Vietnam and women’s rights protests in the 1960s. Another Union alumna ’16, Erin Lowrey, said that hearing the stories from such women made her better acknowledge the legacy of the individual people in the continued fight for equality for all marginalized peoples.
While a central ideal to the march was raising marginalized groups’ voices, the lack of diverse racial representation at the march in New York was notable. When considering the city’s tremendous diversity in ethnicity and race, as well as the recent social justice campaigns against institutionalized racism and police brutality, the general lack of the #BlacksLivesMatter campaign within the Women’s March was surprising. Instead, the anti-ethnic discrimination issues were represented largely by the Muslim and Latin American communities.
Union students attended the March on Washington, D.C., the same day. The campus Women’s Union and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program transported students for free by bus early Saturday morning, after raising enough money to cover the funds completely. Christie Dionisos ’19, Public Relations Chair of the Women’s Union, shared that 45 Union students, including six male students, and 11 faculty and staff made the journey to D.C.
When asked what prompted her to attend the march, Dionisos replied, “I think I felt very discouraged after Trump won the presidency. I lost faith in our country, confused by how many people supported someone so close-minded. I wanted to feel validation, to have other people agree that yes sexism shouldn’t exist and yes Islamophobia is a problem. So I wanted to be part of something big, something that would restore my faith in humanity because I really was feeling defeated. This along with Professor Foroughi’s History of Women’s Rights in America made me realize that I’m not willing to sit back and let my rights be trampled on. I wanted to take action and this march allowed me to do that on a national scale.”
Director of the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and Associate Professor Andrea Foroughi also cited Union classes as inspiration for the trip: “In the fall term, during the election, I taught Introduction to Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the History of Women’s Rights in the U.S. Teaching these courses sharpened my attention to issues related to gender, sexuality, race, and inequality. The election – the gender of the candidates, the language and rhetoric of prejudice and disdain for human rights, the issues at stake – these all prompted me to want to participate outside of my role in the classroom. In addition, I was inspired by the organizers and participants in the 1913 women’s suffrage parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.”
The Washington March, as not only the primary site of the march but also the nation’s capital, was well attended. The New York Times reports that crowd scientists estimate at least 470,000 marchers at the mall in the afternoon. Images on the article’s webpage show the drastic difference in crowd size of the march in comparison to President Trump’s inauguration the day before.
As for what the march meant for the marchers coming back to Union, Dionisos shared that “this isn’t the end. We are coming back to campus with a renewed sense of activism and we plan on hosting events that continue to raise awareness of the many issues we marched for on Saturday.” Dionisos and Foroughi both wanted to thank the Union community for “supporting our endeavors, both through donations and their encouraging words,” as Dionisos put it. Foroughi mentioned that in addition to providing funding that exceeded the cost of transportation, the Union community also crafted the pink “pussyhats” for the marchers to wear at the march.
President Trump’s response on the colossal and global march against his rhetoric on his first day in office was a tweet reading in part, “Watch protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?”
Although seemingly forgetful of the fact that Hillary Clinton swamped Trump in the popular vote, he slightly regained composure by following the tweet with, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.”
The coming years will likely see more protests for human rights against Trump’s rhetoric if the current trend continues, especially if that rhetoric is followed up by policy changes, while the nation gains insight into this historic president’s 160-character thoughts on Twitter. Dionisos hopes that Trump will address “issues of the silenced majority – all oppressed people whether they be female or black or white or gender non-binary.”